TRP is a brand on the move and, happily enough for them, it seems to be on a near-constant upward trajectory. Initially, I think there was a degree of skepticism around them. After all, Tektro, the entry-level brake manufacturing giant, make enough brakes that we've probably nearly all ridden a set at some point, but how would their racing division fare, and would they be sticking around for the long term?
From the outside, the design ethos at TRP seems quite easy to admire. Not much about their brakes scream "gram counting". For me, this is something like a blessed relief. I don't mind my brakes being heavier, or my rotors thicker. I understand why some people are concerned about the weight of them, or perhaps don't ride the technical terrain that warrants them, but I definitely don't put myself in that camp.
TRP Trail Evo Details
• 270ºC boiling point
• 307 g (80cm hose, with pads, no adaptor or hardware)
• 2.3 mm High-Flow caliper
• Hybrid composite caliper pistons
• New resin pads
• 5.0 mm hose
• 10 mm master cylinder piston
• $209.99 USD per wheel - rotors not included
This is where the new TRP Trail Evo brake comes in. Not only does it have an actual weight of 307g for a front brake including pads but excluding the rotor, which is heavier than both the Code RSC or the XT four pot, it also does that without some of the same features. I think if it were to include more adjustments we would see that weight increase further. I obviously don't actively want heavy brakes, but it's interesting to see where the Trail Evo's priorities lie. To further accentuate this point, the TRP R1 rotors that I've been using are 2.3mm thick - 0.5mm thicker than most rotors from Shimano or, until recently with their new 2.0mm options
The Trail Evo brakes are also priced very well. At just over $200 USD per end, it carries over the value that Tektro is known for into its high-end offerings.Technical Details
The Trail Evo sits between the DH-R Evo
, which is their downhill brake, and the Slate Evo, which is intended for lighter trail biking and eMTBs. The Trail Evo also has a price between the two - $70 more than the Slates and $20 less than the DH-R Evo. All of these brakes all signify a wholesale commitment by TRP to thicker rotors, and all come recommended for use with the 2.3s.
The Trail Evo brake calipers hold four hybrid composite caliper pistons that aim to deal with the demands of heavier bikes and longer descents while being better at resisting heat build up. The lever comes with a choice of mounting options for I-Spec EV, SRAM Matchmaker, and TRP's own shifters. It also benefits from tool-less reach adjustment, although sadly not a contact point adjustment.
The Trail EVO has TRPs high-flow calipers and a 10mm master cylinder piston with new seals that supposedly require less breakaway force. It also makes use of 5mm external diameter hoses that claim to be stiffer. This should aid hydraulic pressure when the lever is forcing oil to the caliper. They also make use of an updated mineral oil recipe. The reformulated oil has a higher boiling point.Installation & Setup
The brakes came with a simple and effective pre-bled "EZ-Plug System". It's an idea that is very effective and essentially means that brakes were bled at the factory, then had their levers disconnected from their hoses and the plugged. You can install them easily at home, including sliding them through any internal routing before trimming down and reconnecting. I thought I would ride the bike before bleeding it and have found it to perform admirably and haven't reached for the bleed kit just yet. Should you need to do so, the method for bleeding TRPs is very simple - you just push the oil up through the system, which will flush any air out as you do so.
I really liked the simple hinged mechanism on the levers, and it does without the release-catch you will find on Shimano brakes. This approach makes for easier installation and removal. The MMX shifter compatibility did have me scratching my head a little, though. The adaptors sit inboard of the lever and those with small hands may well struggle. Even using the limited adjustment of my SRAM GX shifter, it wasn't ever really enough to move it to a suitably outward position. It wasn't uncomfortable, but it does require you to shift your hand on the grip slightly. This is exacerbated if you run your hands towards the outer edge of the grip. Either way, it didn't have much adjustability and this would soon begin to feel like a theme.
I dialed my levers into their most inward position. The place where my finger fell on the lever itself felt good, however, I did initially have concerns that there wasn't enough lever throw before engaging the rotor. The full adjustment of the reach, in my opinion, in no way represented a useable range. The most outward position was almost absurdly far away.
At its closest the distance between behind where your index finger would rest on the blade and the grip was 43.5mm. The bit point was measured at 27.5mm. The back of the lever when the reach adjustment was in its most extreme outward position was 69.5mm away from the grip. I feel like the brake would benefit if all these figures were reduced by around 20mm.Performance
On the trail, the brakes are sublime in so many ways. However, that's not to say they don't have foibles.
Firstly, let's talk about power and pads.
I initially ran these brakes with TRP's new Performance Resin compound. They bedded in very quickly and the power was, in a word, remarkable. What struck me was not how quiet and effective the brakes were but also how little the power faded for an organic pad. There are some brands that have organic pads which I don't consider worth the backing plate they're bonded to, but that's not the case with the TRPs. In fact, even in a particularly wet autumn in Squamish they even lasted well too.
I had initially assumed the resin pad would wear quick enough that it would only be a week or two before I went for the harder metallic option. However, even after many wet and sodden rides there was material left. I decided to blink first and changed to the sintered option.
The sintered pad, much like the resin, seems to offer the performance you would hope for without the blind spot you may find with some brand's versions. Not only was the power as consistent as you would hope, but there was a distinct lack of glazing or vibrations, even after long, brake-heavy descents.
In the aforementioned points, these brakes truly excel and have left me very impressed. However, there are criticisms, too.
I think the supreme power of these brakes is let down by somewhat lackluster ergonomics. I have quite large hands, typically an XL or XXL in gloves, and I found that I could not get the lever to sit in a good range of control - it was simply too far away. I feel that I can modulate levers better when they're in a window that's closer to the bar than the TRP's could offer. The lever position, coupled with a brake that could be described as offering its full range of power in a short amount of lever stroke, meant that if ever I was getting bashed or pushed around on the bike, which can happen often, I could over-apply the brake and compromise myself.
There was also the issue of riding wet and slippery rock slabs in Pemberton. Truthfully, the ergonomic quirks of the brake did affect modulation when surface grip was limited.
I think it's a very good brake, and there will be some people that will happily trade some positioning options for all-out power, but I would struggle to say I'm one of them. I really like them, and it's not that they lack modulation, but rather a large amount of power on offer means that they work best with muted and small inputs from your hands. This is a strength in some ways, and staves off hand fatigue on long runs, but it has to be in a useable range and I don't feel as if the Trail Evo is able to offer that to me.
I tried various bleed tricks to bring the lever in, but their bite point would normally migrate outward and further away from the bar within half a run. I would still run them, and I think their power and consistency could quite possibly be class-leading in terms of power-per-dollar, especially when comparing against the industry giants of Shimano and SRAM, but I would love it if they could incorporate both power, consistency and
better ergonomics. I feel like the lack of the latter undermines what would be a truly excellent braking package.
Very consistent lever feel+
Huge amounts of power with a minimal exertion+
Easy to install and bleed+
Lack of bite point adjustment-
Shifter position could be better-
The reach adjustment doesn't put the lever in a useable range